Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The high cost of being right

Express Staff Writer

Had Charles Swift been an attorney with any U.S. law firm, he would've been rewarded with a cash bonus and promotion to partner. Against agonizing odds, Swift went before the U.S. Supreme Court representing an Arab terrorism suspect and beat the U.S. government by successfully arguing that President Bush's kangaroo court military tribunals were unconstitutional.

However, Swift's triumph—hailed as "brilliant" by colleagues and earning The National Law Journal's "Lawyer of the Year" runner-up honors—cost Swift his career: He's a U.S. Navy lieutenant commander-attorney being passed over for promotion. So, under the "up or out" policy, the Naval Academy graduate and 20-year veteran will retire next spring, presumably thereupon overwhelmed with law firm job offers.

Swift's no-promotion fate, which the Pentagon unconvincingly dismisses as sheer coincidence, is no rarity: The ranks of those fired or who "retire" for embarrassing Bush & Co. by discrediting its policies are growing.

Fired—Retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, first director of Iraq reconstruction, after disputing White House plans and suggesting Iraqi elections after the 2003 invasion and keeping the Iraqi military command intact.

Fired—National Parks Police Chief Teresa Chambers, after confirming to reporters inadequate funds to patrol Washington's parks after 9/11.

Fired—Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, after opposing President Bush's tax cuts.

Fired—White House economic adviser Larry Lindsey, after estimating Iraq war costs as high as $100 billion, despite Bush claims of $50 billion. Real costs: $300 billion and counting.

Fired—Corps of Engineers director Mike Parker after telling congress that budget cuts would have a "negative" impact on Corps projects.

Demoted—Pentagon contracting official Bunnatine Greenhouse after criticizing no-bid contracts for Halliburton, Vice President Cheney's old firm.

Demoted—Acting U.S. attorney for Guam, Frederick Black, after issuing a subpoena for contracts between corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff (and frequent White House visitor) and the Guam Superior Court.

Fired—Dr. Jonathan Fishbein, National Institutes of Health official, after criticizing research standards violations and a coverup.

Fired—Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, after saying publicly several hundred thousand troops would be needed in Iraq to quell insurgents, not a smaller force advocated by Defense secretary Rumsfeld.

By tolerating only yes-men and yes-women, the Bush White House has deprived the nation of wisdom and followed a path downward into domestic mismanagement and disastrous, life-costly strategies in Iraq.

Perhaps George W. Bush's epitaph will be a topsy-turvy version of Henry Clay's stirring speech in the U.S. Senate in 1850, "I'd rather be right than President," to read, "I'd rather be President than right."

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